Episode 15


Booze and Lose Sleep

Hoping that liquid courage will transform into liquid slumber? You’re not alone: alcohol is one of the most common methods people try in order to sail away to dreamland. Unfortunately, it's far more likely to result in a nightmare of a rest.

In this episode, I’ll review some of the effects that alcohol can have on your sleep - and non of them are positive! Sleep problems caused by alcohol in the United States alone cost our economy over $18 billion per year. 

Alcohol, similar to sedative-hypnotic "sleep" pills, puts the brain in an anesthesia-like state of sedation that blocks normal sleep processes. This prohibition against normal sleep is one of the main reasons alcohol is so problematic - we easily confuse sedation with sleep. But the loss of deep sleep and REM sleep is profound. Furthermore, as your liver metabolizes the alcohol, one of the main breakdown products called aldehydes can be quite alerting - this leads to significant disruption of sleep, including far greater number of awakenings across the night, and longer total time spent awake across the night. 

So yes, alcohol is sedating, but that effect is quite small compared to your normal natural sleep drive - studies show on average that alcohol consumption to the degree of level drunkenness only helps you fall asleep about 6 minutes earlier on average than if you didn't take anything - for half of people, alcohol only helps them sleep 2 minutes earlier!

Does that seem worth it? Especially given the overall decreased amount of sleep, obliteration of normal high quality sleep, increased frequency of waking across the night, and disruption of your body's internal clock? For individuals who make a habit of a night cap in an effort to induce sleep, the effects are even worse, and it typically takes years (literally years!) before their sleep begins to normalize. 

When you booze, you lose sleep!


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